V4 Telecom has been formally warned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority over its handling of a wholesale dispute last year which led to a “lengthy service outage” and a rush of customer complaints.
The ACMA said it received “approximately 123 complaints in 19 days” from customers affected by the outage, in part because the customers were unable to reach V4 Telecom directly.
“V4 Telecom also failed to tell customers who made contact what it was doing to restore their services and did not keep complete records of the complaints,” the authority said, finding the telco in contravention of complaints-handling standards.
In an investigation published today [pdf], V4 told investigators that “a dispute with one of its wholesalers” led to the service outage.
“To resolve the issue V4 decided to move its customers to another wholesaler,” the ACMA said.
V4’s evidence is that it “contacted the new wholesaler to move the disrupted services on 29 June 2018” and then “submitted landline, internet and mobile services for migration to the new wholesaler between 2 and 4 July 2018.”
However, the migration did not go smoothly because some legacy copper-based services couldn’t just be migrated due to rules in NBN-cabled areas.
“V4 advised ... that it was experiencing issues transferring some services to the new wholesaler because the customers lived in areas where the National Broadband Network was available,” the ACMA said.
“Those customers were unable to receive a service on the legacy copper network and had to migrate to the NBN.”
While V4 did send “bulk alerts via email and SMS” about the service outage, it did not “mention the proposal to move services to a different wholesaler nor did they include other notification details about how customers’ telecommunications services may be impacted or affected,” the ACMA concluded.
That led to ACMA finding the company in breach of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) code. [pdf]
V4 told investigators that it had not followed normal complaints procedures during the crisis “as it was focussed on resolving the outage for each customer affected.”
“It also stated that the high volume of calls that it received during the outage stretched its resources beyond capacity,” the ACMA said.
“V4 submitted that any breaches were unintentional and caused by the unusual circumstances.”
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said that consumers had “a right to expect that complaints to their telco provider will be heard, acknowledged and answered”.
“It’s unacceptable for customer complaints not to be dealt with promptly,” she said.